Mark Drogin
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Jews and the Church: Two Approaches

by George A. Morton

The unique gathering of Jewish Catholics in Washington DC last month proclaimed a profound message: all the Jewish Catholics – including the five speakers – proudly profess that they maintain their Jewish identity after entering the Catholic Church. The event was the first in a series; the next conference is scheduled for New York City March 19-20.

The title of the Washington DC conference was “Jews In the Church: More Jewish Than Ever!” It was held at the Catholic Information Center, near the White House, on Saturday December 11, and hosted by Remnant of Israel. Mark Drogin, President of Remnant of Israel and organizer of the conference, gave the day’s first talk. Drogin announced that Jewish Catholics speak with one voice in proclaiming:

We believe Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. We find the fullness of Judaism in the Catholic Church. We are proud to profess our fidelity to the Magisterium. And we are proud to proclaim that we are even more Jewish now than we were before we were Catholics.

“This is the Jewish-Catholic Dialogue the Church must pursue at this time,” Drogin explained. “The Vatican has been calling for a genuine dialogue of faith with Jews. We are Jews who know, with the certainty of Faith, that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah. Should we be excluded from this genuine dialogue of faith? On the contrary, fruitful Jewish-Catholic dialogue must begin with the Apostles and with Jews today who see, with the eyes of Faith, that Jesus came to save the Jewish People. Edith Stein is a canonized Saint: should we exclude her witness?”

Robert Moynihan, editor of Inside the Vatican, served as Master of Ceremonies for the event. Moynihan and Drogin have closely followed the progress, in recent years, of Jewish-Catholic dialogue – and, specifically, the role of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with Jews. Drogin, however, admitted that when he began planning this Remnant of Israel conference, he was not aware that the President of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, Cardinal Walter Kasper, would present a keynote address on Jewish-Catholic dialogue during the same week of Advent. The similarities – and differences – of themes for these two events are noteworthy.

In his address on December 6, Cardinal Kasper referred to a new “theology after Auschwitz” as “a fundamental theological reevaluation.” [1] The horror of the Second World War and “the feeling of shame over Christian anti-Judaism,” according to Cardinal Kasper, have “led to a revision of the Christian relationship to Judaism… a change of perspective which can only be described as an epoch-making break with the past.” [2] Kasper presented this thesis to the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations, at Boston College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Nostra Aetate was a necessary and a good new beginning,” the Cardinal explained, but it “was of course only the beginning of a new beginning. We are only at the start of a new start of a ‘Christian Theology of Judaism’…. Many decisive questions still remain open.” [3]

What is this new “Christian Theology of Judaism” that “can only be described as an epoch-making break with the past”? And what are the “many decisive questions still remain[ing] open”? This effort, Cardinal Kasper proposed, “allows us to take up Romans 11 anew so that we can approach an answer to the question which occupies us here.” [4]

The group of Jewish Catholics gathered in Washington DC also examined a “Christian Theology of Judaism.” Even though the group in Washington had a different starting point and a different approach, it also recognized that any Christian Theology of Judaism must go through Romans 11.

Cardinal Kasper, in his address in Boston, posed the “decisive questions still remaining open” at least three different times. Kasper’s third articulation referred to “two theories developed during the past decades: the One Covenant Theory and the Two Covenant Theory.” [5] The Cardinal quickly pointed out that these theories are inadequate: “The relationship of Judaism to Christianity is thus so complex both historically and theologically that it cannot be reduced to one of the two theories or to a formula which is valid for all time.” [6]

When asked about these theories, Mark Drogin said, “these theories are confusing and distracting at best. Discussion of these theories often implies that Jews may be saved without Christ. To imply that anyone may be saved without Christ is an occasion of grave scandal to the Faithful because it is a direct contradiction of our Faith.”

Drogin quickly added that “Cardinal Kasper identified the approach needed for our proper understanding of the Church’s identity in the third millennium: it must be based on Romans 11. The Cardinal explained that the ‘answer which Romans 11 gives us is not a theory, but rather an image.’ In Romans 11, Paul uses the image of the root of the olive tree into which the wild branches have been grafted.”

“With this image Paul resists any Christian triumphalism,” [7] Kasper emphasized. This should be clear, Drogin claims, to anyone sincerely seeking to know Jesus of Nazareth and Paul of Tarsus, “but there remain in the Church – even today – many who fail to grasp this fundamental truth of our Faith, and Kasper rightly sees the need to emphasize it. Paul resists any triumphalism and we must also reject even a hint of Christian triumphalism,” Drogin added.

“Images have the advantage of being open to interpretation,” Cardinal Kasper explained. “Images can legitimately be applied interpretatively to different situations.” [8] Jews and Christians are different “but dependent on one another for the sake of their individual identity,” the Cardinal said. “They are like two brothers who have the same father.” [9]

Drogin’s opening talk at the conference in Washington DC, titled “Israel’s True Identity and Vocation,” explored this image of two brothers. Drogin suggested the Parable of the Prodigal Son as an image for the relationship of Jews and Gentiles within the People of God. Using the Hebrew Prophets, Drogin showed that the younger brother – the Prodigal Son – may be seen as an image of the Lost Tribes of Israel who have become as Gentiles. The assimilation among the Gentiles of the lost northern tribes was so complete that they were identified with the Gentiles and thus fit Paul’s image of the wild olive branches grafted onto the root.

The older son who stayed home, according to Drogin’s reading of the Parable, may be seen as the natural olive branches who naturally belong to the good olive tree. The Parable of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke is actually open-ended, without a conclusion, Drogin noted. “It ends with the Father inviting the older brother to come in and join in the celebration because all that the Father has belongs to the older brother. We don’t know if he comes in or not. This image agrees with the image in Romans 11 of the natural branches waiting to be grafted back onto the trunk.”

In addition to theological questions, the relation of the Church to Judaism in the third millennium raises important pastoral concerns. Cardinal Kasper pointed out what is needed here: “a similar process of rediscovery and reunion is in its initial stages in Jewish-Christian dialogue. This is not possible without repentance and rethinking. In the end the relationship of Israel and the Church is a mystery of election and judgement, of guilt and even greater grace.” [10]

The Cardinal asked his audience to think about the Church’s identity in our time. “A mystery is not an irrational entity which we are forbidden to think about, instead it is true that: ‘Fides quaerens intellectum’.” [11] The “continuing existence of Israel,” Cardinal Kasper concluded, “confronts us inevitably with God’s unconditional faithfulness to His People. The existence of the Church is also a mystery.” [12]

The Washington DC conference also addressed this mystery. The conference’s approach to the mystery of the Church was profound simply because more than half a dozen Jews gathered and with one voice proclaimed their fidelity to the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church, “And we are proud to proclaim that we are even more Jewish now than we were before we were Catholics.” The continuing – and, according to some, rapidly increasing – existence of Jews who proclaim they have found the Messiah in the Roman Catholic Church confronts us powerfully “with God’s unconditional faithfulness to His People.”

Remnant of Israel, the host of the Washington DC conference, was founded in 1976 by three Jewish Catholics to proclaim the Jewish roots of the Church. One of the founders, Father Arthur Klyber, C.Ss.R., wrote many articles and books on this subject, and labored tirelessly for more than seven decades to combat anti-Judaism in the Church. Klyber was born of Jewish parents in New York City in 1900, became a Catholic 20 years later, and a priest in 1932.

In February 1945, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Eugenio Zolli, was secretly baptized in a private ceremony in the Vatican. The news leaked to the press and soon became an international incident. Father Klyber was a Redemptorist missionary preaching in the midwestern U.S. at the time. Klyber pieced together various wire service reports of the Chief Rabbi’s baptism and reported that, when asked if he still considered himself a Jew, Zolli answered, “Did Peter, James, John, Matthew, Paul and hundreds of Hebrews like them cease to be Jews when they followed the Messiah? Emphatically, no.” [13]

The conference in Washington DC took its theme from Father Klyber’s 1945 article on the Baptism of the Chief Rabbi of Rome:

It should be pointed out that a Jew who accepts the Messiah today remains just as much a Jew as he expects to remain if and when he shall accept a Messiah at some distant future coming. In other words, a Jew who accepts Jesus as his Messiah accepts a Jew, and himself remains a Jew. This may sound strange and even heterodox to Catholics who have only a surface knowledge of Jewish Prophetic history and Catholic teaching concerning it…. When a devout Jew becomes a follower of Jesus he changes neither his nationality, which is Hebrew, nor his religion, which is Judaism. He merely brings his religion to completion, as Zolli pointed out. This is why the former Rabbi was able to say that he had not given up the Synagogue for the Church, and that one could not exist without the other. [14]

Another article by Fr. Klyber, published in The Liguorian in March 1956, quoted a Dominican priest from Ireland, Fr. Vincent McNabb, O.P.: “We Catholics are the true Jews grown up. I am a true Jew. I want all Jews to come to the fulfillment of their religion in the Catholic Church: they have really a greater right to it than we Gentiles have.” [15]

Father Klyber, in retrospect, seemed ahead of his time. Years before Vatican Two, he lamented the lack of awareness among Catholics that “the Apostles and the other followers of Jesus considered themselves always as Jews… both Peter and Paul informed pagans that they were Jews…. It is notoriously true, though a bitter pill for the Jews to swallow, that those Jews who rejected Jesus as Messiah actually rejected the Jewish religion.” [16]

Other Jewish Catholics who spoke at the gathering on December 11 were Roy Schoeman, author of Salvation Is From the Jews (Ignatius, 2003); Ronda Chervin, philosophy professor and author of several books; David Moss, President of the Association of Hebrew Catholics; and Fr. Peter Sabbath, a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Montreal, Canada. Fr. Sabbath was the main celebrant and homilist for the Mass during the conference. He began his homily by saying that he, like Fr. Klyber, was “proud to be a Jewish priest.”

Roy H. Schoeman, who spoke after Drogin, agrees that Romans 11 is central to understanding the mysterious relationship of the Church and Judaism in the third millennium. On the first page of his book, Salvation Is From the Jews, Schoeman begins his approach to this great mystery with a different question than Cardinal Kasper proposed.

A Jew who has become a Catholic is the best person to explore the true meaning of Judaism. To understand salvation history, one must be a Christian, since the Incarnation, death, and Resurrection of Christ are at the center of salvation history, and the fullness of the relevant doctrine is contained in the teaching of the Catholic Church. A Catholic who is not from a Jewish background would necessarily have a more abstract and incomplete understanding of Judaism than someone who grew up within Judaism. [17]

In thoughts very similar to the words of Cardinal Kasper, attendees at the Washington DC conference sensed that the continuing – and increasing – presence of Jews in the Church confronts us inevitably with God’s unconditional faithfulness to His People. There is truly a process of rediscovery and reunion in its initial stages and it is not possible without repentance and rethinking.

We are not as far removed – as Cardinal Kasper implied in his address on December 6 – from the thousands of Jews who followed Jesus in the first century. Many Jews – in every century since then – have sincerely and proudly professed the Catholic Faith. Roy Schoeman, in his book, documents many significant testimonies in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 20th century we see a rapidly growing number of Jews in the Church including the former Chief Rabbi of Rome, Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris, and recently canonized St. Edith Stein. Will we see much larger numbers of Jews entering the Church in the days and years ahead? In his book, Schoeman cites considerable evidence for an affirmative answer to this question.

Jews and Catholics who sincerely seek truth agree on the urgency to understand our relationship in the divine Plan. “Paul himself in Romans 11,” concluded Cardinal Kasper, “indicates the direction of such an understanding; not a theory but a docta spes, an account of the hope (cf. 1 Pet 3:15f) which is certain that in the end Israel and the Church will be reunited (cf. Rom 11:26.32).” [18]

“For anyone open to the joyous surprises of divine providence,” Drogin noted, “and especially to any professional theologian who professes the Catholic Faith, we must pay attention to the continuing presence among us of Jews who profess the Catholic Faith.” Roy Schoeman wrote on the last page of his book,

It is most important … to be aware of the experiences and perceptions of Jews who have received the grace of conversion. For with one voice they all attest to the same thing – that in their perception they were far more Jewish after their conversion than before it, and that their deepest, archetypically Jewish thirst for God could never have been met outside Christianity. [19]

For more information about the next gathering of Jewish Catholics in New York, March 19-20, and other conferences in this continuing series, visit the Remnant of Israel website: http://remnantofisrael.net/ Other sites of related interest are Roy Schoeman's www.salvationisfromthejews.com and the Association of Hebrew Catholics’ http://hebrewcatholic.org/ Tapes of the Washington DC conference are available on the Remnant of Israel website.


1. “The Relationship of the Old and the New Covenant as One of the Central Issues in Jewish-Christian Dialogue”; delivered by Walter Cardinal Kasper to the Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations, at Boston College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, December 6, 2004. http://www.bc.edu/research/cjl/meta-elements/texts/articles/Kasper_
. #4.

2. Ibid. Kasper’s citation here is: “J.B. Metz, Article ‘Auschwitz II’, in: LThK Bd. 1 (1993) 1260 f.”

3. Ibid, #5.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid. In his footnote, Cardinal Kasper cites several sources for these theories.

6. Ibid. In another footnote, Kasper cites another source for this statement.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. “A Rabbi Follows Jesus”; article (pages 292-299) in The One Who Is to Come: A Collection of Writings of Father Arthur B. Klyber, Hebrew Catholic Priest (Remnant of Israel, New Hope, KY; 2000); edited by Matthew J. McDonald; 298. Article originally published in The Liguorian, August 1945 (Liguori, Missouri).

14. Ibid.

15. “Crucify the Jew” (pages 324-331); The One Who Is to Come; 325.

16. Ibid, 326.

17. Roy H. Schoeman, Salvation Is From the Jews (Ignatius, San Francisco, 2003); 9.

18. Kasper, “The Relationship of the Old and the New Covenant as One of the Central Issues in Jewish-Christian Dialogue”; #6.

19. Schoeman, Salvation Is From the Jews; 355.

Copyright ©;
George A. Morton 2005

This version: 23rd May 2005


 Mark Drogin
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